Idaho gaming commission proposed in Statehouse

Posted at 11:36 AM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 19:40:54-05

A House panel voted to introduce a bill creating a gaming commission that would oversee Idaho's gaming industry.

The state currently has three independent commissions that oversee respectively tribal gaming, the state lottery, and horse racing. The gaming commission, proposed by State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, would generally oversee all three. The bill empowers the committee to test all gaming devices in the state and monitor Indian casinos to ensure they comply with the state compact.

"This is not an attempt to put anyone down or to say you're not doing an adequate job," said Loertscher. "What this is designed to do is ensure the citizens of the State of Idaho that the gaming activities in the state are conducted in compliance with our Constitution, as well as any of the laws we have passed."

The bill was introduced with only two Democrats opposing, Reps. Melissa Wintrow and Paulette Jordan. Jordan, a member of the Coeur D'Alene Tribe, says the bill targets tribal gaming and only makes a nod to Idaho's other gaming agencies.

"I'm all for regulation at every level," said Jordan, D-Plummer. "That does exist as is. Adding another level is what we're looking at here."

Tribal gaming in Idaho is currently under three separate oversight bodies, argues Jordan. The tribes are required to have their own regulatory gaming commission. The Kootenai Tribe, for example, has the Kootenai Tribal Gaming Commission, which oversees the Kootenai River Inn Casino.

Then, the state has oversight of Indian gaming through the gaming compact. The agreement gives authority to the Idaho State Lottery director to enforce the terms of the compact. Idaho State Police can be used to support that role.

Finally, there is federal oversight. The National Indian Gaming Commission has its own regulatory authority over tribal gaming in the country. That commission has the power to fine and temporarily close casinos violating federal law.

"Tribes are very transparent in how they operate and where their money goes in terms the revenue extended out and donations given to the community," said Jordan.

Loerstcher's proposed gaming commission would have similar oversight already granted to the Idaho State Lottery Director. Jordan says there's no clear solution on how those two entities would resolve their roles.

The bill extends oversight to include inspection of lottery and pari-mutuel devices. It stays silent on oversight of the Idaho State Lottery and the Idaho Racing Commission proper.